Thursday, February 22, 2018

The Makita Cordless Track Saw

Makita XPS01 saw on Festool MFT/3 table with Mafell dust bag attached.
Note tape over arbor hole to improve dust control.
I love track saws. A track saw is a safer alternative to a table saw for many woodworking and carpentry uses. A track saw doesn't require the dedicated shop space of a table saw. And given a long enough guide rail, track saws are ideally suited to working with large sheets of plywood, acrylic -- the primary laser cutting materials. Many laserable materials are sold in large sheets that are much more economical than pre-cut "project" pieces. And some materials are only available in 4'x8' sheets. So being able to work with sheet goods will increase your range of available materials.

Festool makes excellent track saws that dominate the market for good reason. I've used a Festool track saw for years, and I'm a huge fan. But Makita has turned my head with their new cordless track saw -- the XPS01.

I acquired the Makita XPS01PT Kit (includes the XPS01, a 5.5" 55T carbide tip ultra-thin-kerf (0.63"/1.6mm) blade, two 5Ah 18V batteries and a high-speed charger in two blue-green systainer-like containers for $499), and it came with the 55" rail and 2 more 5Ah batteries for free as part of a promotion. That was roughly half the cost of Festool's cordless TSC-55 saw and comparable supporting gear. (The XPS01PT kit is missing any dust bag.) Even without the promotion the Makita is $300 less than than the cordless Festool.

[Makita now sells a second model of their cordless tracksaw: the XPS02. The XPS02 is almost the same as the XPS01, but it adds wireless Bluetooth dust control, and it substitutes a 56T blade for the 55T blade on XPS01. The XPS02 is currently only sold as "tool only" without batteries, systainer or guide rail.]

Makita XPS01PT
Makita XPS02
Festool TSC-55 REB SET XL-FS
Kit Cost
XPS01 included
XPS02ZU - $375
TSC-55 included
2@ 5Ahx18V included
2@ 5.4Ahx18V included
2 battery rapid charger
$200 w/2 batteries
2 Extra 5Ah Batteries
55" Guide rail
Dust bag
Mafell: $56
Mafell: $56

I also have a 7.5" blade Festool TS-75. It's a great saw, but it's big and heavy, and it has a cord. (Festool swapped the TS-75 for my TS-55 REQ that was recalled in 2013.) The Festool TS-75 is 13.6 pounds. The Makita XPS01 is 11.2 pounds with 2 batteries.

Festool TS-75 setup to cut 4' plywood on homemade break down table.
The Makita XPS01's dust collection ability when connected to my Festool CT/Mini dust extractor is adequate, but it's a little more messy than the Festool TS-75. (A bit of tape over the arbor access hole helps reduce the dust from the XP01.) The dust port on the Makita is directly compatible with the CT/Mini's hose without any need for an adapter. The other issue with dust collection is that since the Makita is battery operated, the dust collector needs to be manually operated. The Makita XPS01 doesn't have a wireless dust control feature. The similar Makita model XPS02 does have Bluetooth dust collector control for use with Makita AWS-capable dust extractors.

The Makita XPS01 doesn't include a dust bag, but it is compatible with the Mafell dust bag (Mafell 206921 $56). The Festool TSC dust bag can also be used, but it reportedly requires some modifications, and it doesn't work on a 45 bevel. (I purchased the Mafell dust bag from Timberwolf Tools.)

Makita XPS01 saw on MFT/3 with Mafell dust bag attached.
The Makita rail is almost the same as the Festool. I have 55" and 75" Festool rails and an MFT/3. The two brands of rails are functionally cross-compatible -- the Festool saws will work on the Makita rails, and the Makita saws will work on the Festool rails. The Makita rails have an additional locking edge that works with the Makita saw's slide lever.

(Note: the Festool Parallel Guides do not work with the Makita rails. The lip for the locking slide lever on the slot of the Makita rail obstructs the clamps on the Parallel Guides.)

As delivered, the Makita's blade was set to cut about 1/16th inch closer to the rail than my TS-75. Unaltered, the Makita would trim all my three existing Festool rails too close for the TS-75. So I needed to adjust the Makita to match the cut location of my TS-75. (Alternatively, I could have adjusted the TS-75 to match the Makita blade distance.) This required adjusting the four hinge block mounting screws on the Makita to set its blade to match my guide rails (which are trimmed to my TS-75). (The Makita has these screws on the underside of the saw base.) This was a fussy procedure that took a bit of trial and error.

Festool track saws have a feature called a riving knife. The Makita has no riving knife. The riving knife is a piece of metal that descends from the back of the saw into the cut. The riving knife keeps the blade cutting straight and prevents the material and blade from binding. And binding can cause kickback where the material or saw is jerked loose in dangerous ways. Kickback is a big problem with radial saws and table saws. Without the riving knife, kickback potential with Makita is greater.

But the Makita does have a locking slide lever when used on Makita-brand guide rails. The mechanism is designed to hold the saw on the track and prevent it from falling over when doing bevel cuts. The locking slide lever may also reduce the chance of binding and may prevent the saw from coming loose if there is kickback.

The Makita also lacks the splinter guard on the waste side of the cut that the Festool saws have for 0-degree (perpendicular) cuts. I have not noticed any reduction in cut quality relative to my Festool saw, but it would probably depend on the material you are cutting and condition of your saw blades.

The Makita XPS01 comes with a 165mm blade compared to the Festool TS-55's 160mm blade. They both have the same 20mm arbor. This gives the Makita a little bit more cut depth. Those silly little mm's make all the difference when cutting 2-by lumber. The TS-55 can't quite cut through a 2x4 when making a bevel cut. (Deeper cuts is one of the major advantages of the Festool TS-75 over the TS-55 family.)

Makita B-57071
Festool W48
Makita B-57342
Ultra thin
Ultra thin
Ultra thin
Cut depth  
w/o guide rail
(0 degrees)
55mm (2.2")

Cut depth  
w/o guide rail
(45 degrees)
43mm (1.7")

Cut depth
w/ guide rail
(45 degrees)


Thin kerf
Ultra thin kerf

Makita USA does not seem to sell the B-57071 55T ultra-thin-kerf blades that match the one supplied with the cordless Makita XPS01. But the newer model Makita XPS02 includes a 56 tooth ultra thin kerf carbide tipped blade (B-57342). Makita has numerous other 165mm blades that fit this saw.

Freud, Tenryu, Oshlun, Festool and others sell 160mm blades that will work in the TS-55 or the XPS01. I have a 48T thin-kerf (0.87"/2.2mm) Freud blade that I bought when I had the TS-55 REQ, but I have not tried it in the XPS01.

The XPS01 is part of Makita's 36V LXT2 line of cordless power tools. It requires two of their 18V LXT batteries to operate at 36V. Motors can produce more torque at 36V than at 18V -- important in a saw. It's easy to check battery level with a button and indicator on the saw. (Plus each battery pack has a level indicator.) So the extra pair of batteries included with the promo bundle is, effectively, just one backup set. The kit came with a rapid charger that charges two batteries at a time. The charger is fairly large and came in it's own high quality systainer.

The Makita XPS01 is nicely made and seems to perform well. The XPS01 is made in China.

In all, the Makita XPS01 is an excellent tool at a good price. And with the Makita kit bundle and promotions is an excellent deal.

[Updated 2/2019]